Card of the Week: Dennis Eckersley 2015 Topps Five Star

The Card of the Week for January 10-16, 2016 is the 2015 Topps Five Star Autograph of Dennis Eckersley. Eckersley was one of my 2 favorite pitchers to watch as a kid. The other being Dave Stewart. I began watching baseball in the mid-1980s, this was after Eckersley came to the Oakland Athletics and converted into one of the most dominant closers in the game.

Dennis Eckersley 2015 Topps Five Star Autograph

Dennis Eckersley 2015 Topps Five Star Autograph

Eckersley was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004. He is one of two pitchers with 20-win (1978) and 50-save (1992) seasons. Eckersely was selected to the All-Star game 6 times, 2 as a starter and 4 as a closer. He was also named MVP of the 1988 American League Championship Series, saving all 4 of Oakland’s victories against the Boston Red Sox.

His best season came in 1992 when he posted a 7-1 record, struck out 93 batters in 80 innings and saved a major league leading 51 games. That year Eckersley won the American League MVP and Cy Young Awards.

Fun Fact: In his 24 year career, Eckersley only pitched in the National League for 5 years, 3 as a starter and 2 as a reliever. As a starter for the Chicago Cubs (1984-86), Eckersley hit 3 home runs. 1 in 1985 and 2 in 1986. Not bad for a guy with only 181 career at bats.

Eckersley was clearly one of the most dominant pitchers in the game during the 1980s and 1990s. He was instrumental in the success of the Oakland Athletics in the late-1980s and early-1990s. Eckersley will always be one of my favorite pitchers.

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Card(s) of the Week: Kendall Graveman 2015 Panini Immaculate Jumbo Patch

The Card(s) of the Week for December 6-12th is the 2015 Panini Immaculate Jumbo Patch of Kendall Graveman. Panini’s Immaculate Baseball set is quickly becoming one of my favorite high-end sets. Will I ever purchase a box of these cards? No. The $200 price tag for 6 total cards makes it unrealistic for me to purchase. However, I will purchase the cards I want off eBay.

Kendall Graveman Panini Immaculate Jumbo Patch #24, 27 /49

Kendall Graveman Panini Immaculate Jumbo Patch #24, 27 /49

The jumbo patch is beautifully done, taking up over two-thirds of the card’s surface. Both of these cards are number out of 49.

Graveman1207b

2015 Panini Immaculate Jumbo Patch #24/49

Graveman1207c

2015 Panini Immaculate Jumbo Patch #27/49

In his first season with the Athletics, Graveman was 6-9 with a 4.05 ERA over 21 starts. He is a young pitcher that shows flashes of promise. During the month of June, Graveman went 3-2 with a 1.93 ERA in 6 starts.  With an improved bullpen in 2016 many of Oakland’s starters should see improved stats over 2015.

This is the second card featured in the Card of the Week from Panini Immaculate. The first was the Shadowbox Signature of Kendall Graveman. Click here to see that post.

Ryan Madson Set to Sign With A’s on 3 Year Deal

Veteran reliever Ryan Madson and the Oakland Athletics have agreed to a 3 year deal worth $22 million. The deal is not yet official as it is pending a physical.

This move will make long strides in shoring up a miserable 2015 bullpen. Madson was 1-2 with a 2.13 in 68 games for the World-Series Champ Kansas City Royals. The true question mark is his health. Prior to 2015 Madson missed the 3 previous seasons with a variety of arm issues. Signing him to a 3 year deal could be a risk, but it can also be high reward as the Athletics lost 53 games in 2015 by 2 runs or less.

The bullpen in 2016 had already received a boost from from the Athletics front office in the off season. In addition to a healthy Sean Doolittle, who spent a lot of time on the disabled list in 2015. Last week the Athletics added another strong arm in Marc Rzepczynski in a deal that also brought Yonder Alonso from the San Diego Padres to the Athletics for Drew Pomeranz and prospect Jose Torres.  In late-November the Athletics acquired Liam Hendricks from the Toronto Blue Jays for Jesse Chavez.

MLB Winter Meetings On Deck

The 114th Annual MLB Winter Meetings are set to take place December 6-10, 2015 in Nashville. This is the time of years we major deals go down and some of the remaining top free agents sign contracts with teams. Executives from all 30 teams will be present, most ready to make deals.

The Oakland Athletics were very active during the meetings in 2014 making a total of 9 deals. This year Oakland will look to shore up it’s league worst bullpen. There are 2 slots they need to fill and there are a couple of good options in Ryan Madson and Joakim Soria of which Oakland could land one of these guys.

The Athletics will likely continue to shop Brett Lawrie and Danny Valencia. One of these players are expendable with the re-acquisition of Jed Lowrie. Lawrie is likely the one to be moved as he can bring a higher return than Valencia.

With the Winter Meetings upon us it is time for GMs to do some Christmas shopping for their teams.

Autographed Set Update

I wanted to give a brief update on my quest to get as many cards autographed in 3 different sets as I can. My primary focus are the 1987 Fleer and 1988 Topps sets. These are 2 of my favorite sets from the 1980s as they were some of the first that I collected and completed. The other set is the 1981 Fleer set. This set is a nostalgic throwback to when the baseball card business was starting to grow.

Here are the stats for each set as of 12/04/2015:

1987 Fleer – 84/660 cards signed – 12.73% complete
1987 Fleer Update – 18/132 cards signed – 13.64% complete

1988 Topps – 98/792 cards signed – 12.37% complete
1988 Topps Traded – 18/132 cards signed – 9.09% complete

1981 Fleer – 52/660 cards signed – 7.88% complete

Athletics get Jed Lowrie back

On Wednesday Jed Lowrie was traded by the Houston Astros to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for Oakland’s number 30 prospect Brendan McCurry. Jed returns to the Athletics after signing a 3 year deal with the Astros after the 2014 season. He played in 290 games with Oakland during the 2013 and 2014 seasons and batted .271 with 74 doubles and 125 RBIs. In 2015 Jed was limited to 69 games with Houston.

The arrival of shortstop Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve at 2nd base, made Lowrie expendable in Houston. Barring any subsequent moves. in Oakland he will have the chance to platoon with Marcus Semien at shortstop, Brett Lawrie at second and Danny Valencia at third.

Brendan was drafted in the 22nd round of the June 2014 draft. In 2015 he split time with the Stockton Ports and Midland RockHounds. He posted a 1.86 ERA in 50 games, converting 27 out 28 save opportunities. McCurry was selected to pitch in the Arizona Fall League this year and posted a 4.73 ERA in just over 13 innings. He was selected as the reliever on Oakland’s organizational All-Stars for the 2015 season.

Card of the Week: Bruce Maxwell 2014 Topps Pro Debut Magenta Printing Plate

Now that I just completed a stretch of working 16 days in a row, I can get back to some semblance of routine. This week’s Card of the Week is the 2014 Topps Pro Debut Printing Plate of Bruce Maxwell. Bruce is currently the Oakland Athletics No. 28 Prospect on MLB.com. This card features Bruce’s time on the Beloit Snappers. This is the 3rd printing plate I own. The great thing about printing plates is that they are a true 1/1.

Bruce Maxwell 2014 Topps Pro Debut Magenta Printing Plate 1/1 - Front

Bruce Maxwell 2014 Topps Pro Debut Magenta Printing Plate 1/1 – Front

Bruce was drafted in the 2nd round of the June 2012 Draft. This past year he was with the Midland RockHounds and helped them to their 2nd straight Texas League Championship. Bruce spent part of the 2013 and 2014 seasons with the Stockton Ports where I got to see him play. He was also named to the 2014 California League All-Star team.

Bruce Maxwell 2014 Topps Pro Debut Magenta Printing Plate 1/1 - Back

Bruce Maxwell 2014 Topps Pro Debut Magenta Printing Plate 1/1 – Back

Click to see the previous Card of the Week entries.

MLB Pitcher Tommy Hanson Passes Away

On Monday, November 9, 2015 Major League pitcher, Tommy Hanson passed away. He was 29. On Sunday Tommy was rushed to the hospital because he was having trouble breathing. He passed away from catastrophic organ failure. The exact reason that led to the failure is unknown at this time.

Tommy pitched for 5 years in the majors. From 2009-12 with the Atlanta Braves and with the LA Angels of Anaheim in 2013. In 121 starts he posted a 49-35 record with a 3.80 ERA.

After being granted free agency by the Angels, Tommy tried to latch on with the Texas Rangers and the Chicago White Sox in 2014, but did not make either club. In May 2015 Tommy signed with the San Francisco Giants. In 15 starts with the San Jose Giants and the Sacramento River Cats, Tommy went 4-6 with a 4.76 ERA.

I was fortunate enough to see Tommy pitch for the San Jose Giants in Stockton back on June 30, 2015. That night he pitched well, striking out 5 in 5 innings. The only blemish was giving up a solo home run to Branden Cogswell.

After he was done pitching Tommy was nice enough to stop on the ramp leading to the clubhouse and sign some autographs for a couple fans. That night he signed the 2 cards I brought with me. Thank you Tommy.

2011 and 2014 Topps cards autographed by Tommy Hanson

2011 and 2014 Topps cards autographed by Tommy Hanson

 

TTM Success 10/26/2015: Ben Zobrist

On October 26th I received a TTM success from Kansas City Royal Ben Zobrist. I had sent a 2015 Topps Opening Day card out to Zobrist during the last week of the season. He is one of the few position players who usually has a quick turnaround time during the season.

Zobrist began the 2015 season with the Oakalnd Athletics. He came to the A’s with Yunel Escobar by way of a trade that sent catcher John Jaso along with minor leaguers Daniel Robertson, Boog Powell to the Tampa Bay Rays. Zobrist was later traded at the deadline to the Royals for Aaron Brooks and minor league pitcher Sean Manaea.

Zobrist signed 2 cards for me: 2015 Topps Opening Day (one I sent) and 2015 Testimony card (Bonus)

TTM Autographs from Ben Zobrist

TTM Autographs from Ben Zobrist

With every request Zobrist included an additional signed testimony card. The back side has a description of his relationship with God. I received this success in 28 days. Thank you Ben!

Zobrist is one of those player I have liked since he came up in the Rays organization. I just wish he could have stuck with the Athletics for more than just 67 games. I was fortunate enough to see Zobrist rehab with the Nashville Sounds when they came to the West Coast in late May. He signed a MLB Ball for me before the game I went to in Fresno.

Ben Zobrist autographed baseball from rehab appearance with Nashville Sounds on May 24, 2015.

Ben Zobrist autographed baseball from rehab appearance with Nashville Sounds on May 24, 2015.

Waiver Wire: Otero Lost, Lambo Picked Up

The Oakland Athletics lost relief pitcher, Dan Otero, on waivers to the Philadelphia Phillies on November 5th.  In 2013 and 2014 Otero was a pivotal piece of the Athletics’s bullpen. In 2014, Otero posted an 8-2 record paired with a 2.28 ERA in 86 innings. In 2015, Otero was a weak link in the bullpen. He amassed a 2-4 record with a 6.75 ERA in 42+ innings. The Phillies are hopeful that Otero will return to his 2014 form next season.

The Athletics claimed Andrew Lambo off waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates on November 6th. In 741 minor league games, Lambo has launched 100 home runs along with a .280 average. However, he has yet to be able to produce these numbers at the Major League level. Lambo is a career .191 hitter with only 1 home run in 59 games from 2013-15 with the Pirates. Lambo spent most of 2015 on the disabled list with plantar fasciitis in his left foot. Oakland will give Lambo a hard look in the Spring possibly using him as a outfield/first base back up player.

Oakland currently has 39 players on the 40 man roster.